Steve Cardownie: Budget cuts always leak – and the public have a right to know

Alasdair Rankin will have the task of steering the budget through the council. Picture: Neil Hanna
Alasdair Rankin will have the task of steering the budget through the council. Picture: Neil Hanna
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The city council administration’s approach to this year’s budget process had little chance of lasting more than a week, which proved to be the case.

There was never a plastic bag in hell’s chance that the budget options drawn up by officials would not end up in the public domain almost before the ink had dried.

That should have been foreseeable and could have easily been avoided. The decision not to alert the public to specific threats but to ask for its assistance in framing a four-year strategic approach instead was doomed to failure.

READ MORE: Cross-party calls for city to reveal its budget plans

People’s interest is inevitably roused when specific potential cuts are flagged up. This just goes with the territory and attempting to avoid it just won’t wash.The public has a right to know what is being considered. Although I am well aware that what we have so far is only a list of potential cuts compiled by council officials, I don’t think that I have ever gone through a budget process where such potential proposals have not been leaked. In this case the most likely culprit(s) is a dissenting voice within a coalition partner, but surely this could have been predicted and a strategy devised to offset it.

Council leader Adam McVey is caught between a rock and a hard place as he will stand accused of circumventing the budget process if he alone immediately rules out some of the suggestions, although he has attempted to do as much as he can through social media.

Given the circumstances, an official statement that the education proposals which are causing so much cause for concern will not see the light of day may be no bad thing and would certainly help to alleviate the pressure.

Consultation on a four-year strategy taking place alongside, and not instead of, consultation on specific budget matters – a two-pronged approach – would constitute a more meaningful approach and one which would avoid the accusation that the administration may be trying to sneak the more unpalatable cuts through under the radar.

As finance convener, Alasdair Rankin has the unenviable task of steering the budget through the stormy waters of the council but he has done so many times before and I have no doubt will do so again – with school budgets intact!

George must crack the whip now he is one

Last Monday, Councillor George Gordon was elected to the position of Whip at the SNP Group meeting, which means that he will be responsible for maintaining group discipline within the City Council.

George will have to ensure that all group members adhere to group policy and vote accordingly, which he is hoping will not prove too much of a challenge. As it looks like Adam McVey has got the group back on an even keel after three defections, he may indeed have cause for optimism.

Given that George has a long history within the SNP he should be well aware of the twists and turns of politics and how to operate in that arena. Some members are a lot less familiar with the demands of being a councillor and thought that it would just be a dawdle. Others are just not team players and never will be, and if the same councillors did not make a negative contribution they would make no contribution at all (they know who they are).

George will just need to take all of this in his stride and do his bit to ensure the longevity of the coalition. I wish him well!

High opinion

When asked what my background was I said that I used to be a councillor, upon which my my enquirer immediately retorted: “Politicians and nappies should be changed regularly . . . and for the same reason!” Nae answer tae that!